Manhattan’s got Trump Tower. Miami’s got the Trump International Beach Resort. And soon Poland could have Fort Trump.
That was Polish President Andrzej Duda’s pitch when he used a joint press conference with the U.S. president in Washington Tuesday to directly campaign for a permanent U.S. military base on Polish soil, cannily appealing to Trump’s desire to stamp his name on large institutions.
After Duda reiterated his government’s desire to contribute $2 billion towards the cost of establishing the base – and even proposed calling the facility “Fort Trump” – the U.S. president said he was seriously considering the request.
“We're looking at it very seriously,” Trump told reporters. “Poland is willing to make a very major contribution to the United States to come in and have a presence in Poland.”
Duda said that such an arrangement would be in both Polish and American interests. “I firmly believe that this is possible,” he said.
For years, Poland has sought a permanent U.S. military base on its soil as a guarantee against Russian aggression, an anxiety that’s only become more acute following Moscow’s incursions into Georgia and Ukraine.
In May, a proposal from Poland’s Ministry of National Defense to the U.S. government leaked to the press, which showed Poland was prepared to contribute $2 billion towards the establishment of such a base. Poland currently hosts about 3,000 U.S. troops and units from other NATO nations on its soil, but only on a rotational basis, and wants U.S. troops there permanently.
Analysts say such a move will only fuel the rising tensions between NATO and Russia, which is spooked by the alliance’s growing footprint in its former sphere of influence in eastern Europe. When Poland’s request became public in May, the Kremlin warned that warned that any such eastward expansion by NATO would undermine stability in Europe.
Judy Dempsey, nonresident senior fellow at Carnegie Europe, told VICE News that one possible response from Moscow could be to ramp up its own military presence in its exclave of Kaliningrad, which borders Poland and its NATO ally Lithuania.
Duda's visit to Washington came as Poland is under increasing pressure in Europe over controversial judicial reforms pushed through by its populist, euroskeptic government. The European Union is proceeding with disciplinary procedures against Poland, which could hypothetically lead to the country being stripped of its EU voting rights – over the changes to the judiciary that saw Supreme Court judges forced into early retirement and replaced with government nominees.
The European Commission is expected to file a lawsuit against the Polish government over the issue before the European Court of Justice Wednesday.
Cover: U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a joint news conference with Polish President Andrzej Sebastian Duda at the East Room of the White House September 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)